As the New Year approaches, life presses on whether we like it or not. Time does not stand still for those who grieve—not for you and not for me. As the year in which my husband died neared its end, I had grave misgivings about being forced into a New Year. Emotionally I was reluctant to leave the year behind. Somewhere deep within my spirit there was a kind of odd calendar connection to the year of his death. I felt that a New Year would somehow be yet one more degree of separation between us. I would like to say I dismissed my apprehension as irrational, but in truth, it took a while for me to find the courage to greet that particular New Year without him.
When we grieve, we’re not suddenly “new” just because December 31 turns into January 1. Our grief may be too fresh to even care much for the promise of a New Year. No mere turn of the calendar can dictate that we suddenly move from disbelief and shock to the reality of life without the one we love. Grief creates its own calendar, one that defies the rhythmic structure of ordinary time.
Those around us may be full of energy and New Year’s resolutions. For the moment, our challenge may be simply to survive, one day at a time. Forget about those extra five pounds and whatever else is on your mental list of "shoulds” for the New Year. Consider instead a few simple things you can do to help yourself across the threshold of a New Year.
- Think about new ways to pray—for yourself and for others. Pray for renewal and personal transformation, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer" (Romans 12:12).
- Be thankful for who you are and for the God-given gifts and graces that are yours alone to share with the world around you.
- Be thankful for the gift of life—your life.
- Resolve to complain less, especially about what can never be changed.
- Read more for grief understanding and spiritual enrichment.
- Write in a journal to see what is in your inmost heart. Your own words may show you where you have been and give you direction for the future.
- Find your smile and laugh out loud. The relief and release may surprise you. Indeed laughter is sometimes the best medicine, whether for a broken heart or a world-weary spirit.
- Stay connected to the world—the world is not waiting on you or for you.
- Learn again how to relax. When you do, you realize that you are fully equipped to survive the experience of grief.
- Reach out to others to relieve your isolation and loneliness. A spiritual or social support community may provide you with opportunity to share your story with others in a safe environment of care and compassion. Or perhaps all you need is a confidential grief friend who will listen and understand.
- Stretch your heart and mind and grow toward God.
As you greet the New Year, give thanks for the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, “for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4). As you greet the New Year, remember always that God has a perfect plan for your life and for your future. As you greet the New Year, dare to contemplate the endless possibilities for your life that God has yet to reveal. As you greet the New Year, persevere in the hope and belief that one day your grief will turn to joy, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
John 16:20 NIV